Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Leos Carax's HOLY MOTORS opens in New York City -- and, come November, beyond

The phrase "best film of 2012" is being bandied about regarding the new Leos Carax movie, HOLY MOTORS, but I would take a step back before jumping on that particular bandwagon. The movie is certainly fun (for awhile), deals in weighty themes (among these: class, religion, the utter arbitrariness of life, and the ordeal of the filmmaker and his audience), and gives one of cinema's most spectacular performers -- Denis Lavant -- the chance to strut his stuff as eleven different characters (one with a full- frontal hard-on that just won't quit), all residing under the same actor's roof.

As writer and director, Carax, shown at right, goes on too long (as usual: Bad Blood, The Lovers on the Bridge, Pola X), yet much of what he shows us is at least interesting, sometimes riveting, and often original. Original, however, does not always signify worthwhile, and Carax alternates between the unusual and the pretentious, the pompous and the playful. Unfortunately, "playful," in this filmmaker's hands, is rather like having a game of soccer while using a 30-pound lead balloon as your ball. Heavy, man.

I suspect that this movie is a kind of "filling-out" or maybe a continuation of M. Carax's contribution to 2008's three-part omnibus film Tokyo (the other two parts were done by Michel Gondry and Bong Joon-ho), in which M. Lavant also starred as what pretty much seems like one of the "created" characters -- shown above, below (with Eva Mendes ), and further below -- that he plays again in Holy Motors.
Lavant always proves a can't-take-your-eyes-off-him performer, one of the most energized ever to, well, "grace" the screen is not quite the right turn of phrase. But he's fascinating, extraordinarily sexual, and beautiful/ugly in a manner that no one else I've seen can match.

If you don't know his work, check out Beau Travail, The Lovers on the Bridge or Wild Camp, for starters, out of the more than 60 performances he's so far given. Holy Motors allows him his best chance at complete versatility within a single movie that he (or probably anyone else) will ever see.

The plotline of the movie has Lavant as a classy French money mogul, going off one morning in his white limo, chauffeured by Edith Scob (the matriarch of Summer Hours) to "work," which turns out to be anything but what we might have imagined. This work involves his turning into various and quite different characters that seem to have to do with everything from poverty and class to art and love, involving hired assassins, working men, and the bourgeoisie.

All of this is interesting to watch but what it means is up for grabs, and it goes on for far too long, ending in a bit of leaden whimsy that brings the movie's title to foolish life and may put you in mind of a live action version of Pixar's Cars.

Dance, gymnastics, so-so musical numbers, murder, mayhem and that very stiff cock. They're all here and waiting for you to figure out how to put them together. Beginning today, Wednesday, October 17, Holy Motors, with a running time of 115 minutes and distributed by Indomina, opens here in New York at Film Forum and the Elinor Bunion Munroe Film Center (the latter is where you can meet the director at either the 6:45 or 9:30pm screenings today!) Starting in November, the film will make its way around the country in a limited released. Click here to see all the currently scheduled playdates.

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